By Michael Mariotte

South Africa’s only nuclear power station, the long-troubled two-unit, 1800MW Koeberg reactor site near Capetown.

Having pretty much failed in the developed North and West, the multinational nuclear power industry is now pinning its hopes for—perhaps not revival but mere existence—on a handful of nations largely in the global East and South: China, India, Brazil, even Vietnam. Another nation the industry is counting on is South Africa, which currently has one two-unit nuclear site. But the country’s current President, Jacob Zuma, wants to basically quintuple its nuclear capacity despite the possibility—some would say probability—that such a project could bankrupt his nation and the fact that South Africa has plentiful and cheaper renewable energy potential. Even more disturbing, it’s clear that Zuma’s government wants to build Russian reactors, whose safety record is, shall we say, less than sterling.

Dominique Doyle of EarthLife Africa Johannesburg sent us the article below explaining what is happening there. One ray of hope, however: in South Africa, the large faith community is joining in to oppose the government’s plans on the grounds—in language reminiscent of Pope Francis’ recent climate encyclical–that they are not only foolish, but immoral.

The South African government is forging ahead with its plan to procure 9600 MW of nuclear power, even though the idea is extremely unpopular in most sectors of South African society. So far, several vendors have paraded their technology and Intergovernmental Framework Agreements have been signed with Russia, China, France, the United States and South Korea. The contents of which were kept secret from the South African public up until very recently–except for the Russian one which was leaked by Vladimir Slivyak of Ecodefense to the South African based environmental justice organization, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg. The agreements with the United States, France and China were finally tabled at Parliament last week where the Minister of Energy announced that the nuclear procurement will proceed as soon as next month. The contents of the agreements show that Russia’s Rosatom is clearly leading the pack.

The government’s relentless nuclear vision has left many South Africans scratching their heads in confusion. While the country is in the midst of a power crisis, and power cuts are becoming a daily occurrence; most stakeholders, including the Energy Intensive Users Group, feel that 9600 MW of nuclear power will not be the solution. In short, it simply will be too expensive. One plausible reason for the aggressive push for an expanded nuclear fleet is a political union between Russian President Vladimir Putin and South African President Jacob Zuma, who is whispered to be at the core of the nuclear drive. The evidence that the odds are focused at Russia’s favor in the bidding process is overwhelming; with the Intergovernmental Framework Agreement with Russia being concluded first and in far more detail than the other agreements.

South Africa’s fanatical desire to procure nuclear energy, which will be the most expensive procurement in the history of the new dispensation valued at 1 trillion South African Rand ($84 billion), peaks at …read more

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